Interview of Heydar Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, with correspondents of the Philadelphia inquirer and the journal of commerce newspapers on board his plane - July 29, 1997

Question: Mr. President, you were in Russia with official visit at the beginning of July. Did you feel any changes in Russian attitude towards Azerbaijan?

Answer: You know, you need time to feel these changes. I went on my first official visit to Russia as a President of Azerbaijan. We signed numerous intergovernmental memorandums. You can tell how much the attitude was changed towards our country.

The negotiations in Russia were very successful. But there were some issues of great importance. First of all, in February and March this year, we found out that some officials from the Ministry of Defense in Russia had been illegally giving Armenia a lot of weapons for the last three years underground. The arms are worth one billion dollars. We made it straight and said it should be investigated. Armenia should return all the weapons to Russia.

I mean, we know what kind of weapons were given to Armenia. There were many articles in the Russian press about it.

Question: Do you think that it was Russia`s official policy?

Answer: It should be investigated. In any case, what was the goal of giving away the weapons in such amount free?

Question: During your visit to Moscow and meetings with Russian officials, did you get an impression that Russia was willing to solve the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict?

Answer: You know, three big countries- Russia, United States, and France- are co-chairmen of the Minsk Group. On December 20th Presidents Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin and Jacques Chirak made a statement about solving the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict in Denver. That is why I hope these three countries will make a positive progress in solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict. I will discuss it with President Clinton in details.

When I was in Moscow, I discussed this issue with President Yeltsin in detail. On the July 8-9th of this year, I also discussed this issue with President Chirak at the NATO European-Atlantic Cooperation Council summit conference in Madrid.

Question: I do not understand. Why would Russia want to solve this problem? If the problem was solved, Russia might loose its control over Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia.

Answer: You would know that better than me.

Question: Mr. President, there are some congressmen who want the U.S. to help Azerbaijan and eliminate Section 907. They support the viewpoint that Azerbaijan may help the United States of America exclude Iran. But Azerbaijan declared it was to establish a good relationship with Iran. Are there any changes in this position?

Answer: I know that some congressmen are truly working hard to eliminate Section 907. In particular, a couple of days ago, Congressman King worked out a draft of liquidation of this amendment. I will have some negotiations in Congress. Members of Congress should know that Azerbaijan is a very reliable friend of the United States in the Caucasian region. Now, the United States has a great economic interest in Azerbaijan with a great future. That means Azerbaijan is a long-term partner of the United States. Our friendly relations with America at the same time is our economic cooperation. The beginning of the joint development of oil fields in Azerbaijan with U.S. oil companies bothers our neighbors. American Congress should realize and appreciate all these. I believe these are good reasons to eliminate Section 907.

You know, we live in a controversial area. Our principles and strategies of independence cannot satisfy all the countries on the same level. We cannot make everybody happy. Of course, some will be happy with us, some will not.

Question: Mr. President, are you going to cooperate with Turkmenistan to pump gas from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan through the Caspian Sea, and from there to transport it to Turkey?

Answer: We are ready to cooperate with Turkmenistan. But Turkmenistan wants to transport that gas to the Indian Ocean through Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. When I went to Almaty on an official visit, we signed a very important agreement with Kazakhstan. This agreement was about transporting oil produced in Tengiz oil field in Kazakhstan through the pipeline that would be built from the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan. From here, the oil would be transported to Turkey in the Mediterranean Sea. We have already created that transportation line. We take the oil, produced by Chevron in the "Tengiz" oil field to Baku. From Baku, the oil is being transported by railroad to Batoumi in the Black Sea.

Question: Mr. President, are the drafts of the pipeline route that the AIOC plans and wants to implement realistic?

Answer: Yes.

Question: Will Chechenistan allow the transportation of Azerbaijan oil through the northern pipeline to world markets?

Answer: You know, we signed an agreement with Chechenistan. This year, at the beginning of July, the first Deputy Prime Minister of Russia with other officials and delegation from Chechenistan came to Baku. In Baku, we signed a three-party agreement about the normal operation of that pipeline between Russia, Chechenistan and Azerbaijan. I believe, this pipeline will function normally after signing such an agreement.

The second pipeline is supposed to go through the territory of Georgia. I believe we will not have any problems over there. The largest pipeline will go from Azerbaijan to Turkey. But it is not going to go through the territory of Armenia. That is why Armenia cannot damage this pipeline in any way

Question: The easiest way would be through the territory of Iran to Nakhichevan, and from there to Turkey. Is that right?

Answer: It would be great. But it is not possible now.

Question: Mr. President, is America going to get in the way of transportation of Turkmenistan gas to world markets through Iran?

Answer: It is hard to say.

Question: Mr. President, if the peace is re-established in Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh), who is going to guarantee the security? Who will be responsible for security of the pipelines, and which neighbors should protect these pipelines?

Answer: These are different issues. To re-establish peace in Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh), multinational peace protection forces will implement that mission. Every country should be responsible for the security of the oil pipeline. For example, Azerbaijan will guarantee security on its territory, Russia and Chechenistan will guarantee security on their territory. The same is going to be true in Georgia and Turkey. That is why there is no need to involve the army of another country in this issue.

Question: Mr. President, will the United States participate with its own army in the peace protection forces?

Answer: It is totally up to the United States of America. In December 1994, in Budapest at the Summit Conference of the member countries of ATAT, leaders and politicians voted for creation of such forces, and they supported that idea.

Question: Mr. President, will the Russian army join these peace protection forces?

Answer: It is a possibility, but it should be the same in size with the armies of other countries.

Question: Mr. President, how would you suggest solving the problem in Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh)? What is the position of Azerbaijan, and what are your conditions? What do you think? Is that possible to make territorial changes to solve Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict, that is by giving a corridor to Nagorni-Karabakh and asking for a corridor from Armenia to Nakhichevan?

Answer: I support your second opinion right away. I am ready for that. We agree to open a corridor from Lachin to Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh), but there should be a corridor from Armenia to Nakhichevan. We are ready to make such changes.

The answer to your first Question would be that the solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict should be based on the principles accepted in Lisbon. Armenian army should be withdrawn from the territory of Azerbaijan. The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan should be guaranteed and recognized, and one million refugees should return to their homes. Mountainous Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh) may be given a high status of self-determination within the Azerbaijan Republic.

Question: Mr. President, Turkmenistan is making claims on some oilfields located in the Azerbaijan section of the Caspian Sea. There is such a claim stated on an agreement about the joint development of Azerbaijan`s Kapaz oil field signed with Russia. How do you see the solution of this issue?

Answer: Turkmenistan`s claims about our joint development of the oil fields with numerous companies of the world are groundless. Those oil fields are in the Azerbaijan section of the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan`s claims are simple fantasy. We signed the first agreement in September 1994. Turkmenistan made the claims three years later. The "Kapaz" oil field is really on the border of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. We are ready to develop this oil field together.

Question: Mr. President, what is your goal during the first official visit to the United States?

Answer: The main goal during the first official visit to the United States is to develop an American-Azerbaijan relationship. Thank you.